7 December 1998
Nearly half a century on, a rereading of the preface which Albert Paraz wrote in 1950 for Paul Rassinier's Le Mensonge d'Ulysse ("The Lie of Ulysses") strikes us by the daring of the author's reasoning and the freedom of his tone.
In today's France there is no longer any place for either of those qualities. The Pleven Act of 1972 restricts our freedom of tone when speaking of certain persons, and the 1990 Fabius-Gayssot Act forbids us to be so daring as to think for ourselves about certain points of Second World War history.
It can thus be seen that the intolerable intolerance reigning in this country at the time of the "Liberation" and the "weeding out" of the "collaborators" nonetheless allowed a certain daring and freedom which, in 1998, are not tolerated in the least.
In France in 1950 people were still being killed by firing squad for crimes of conscience. Roger Garaudy's Communist Party dominated the Parisian intellectual world. Communists and Résistants paraded about, demanding still more blood. Abject figures of the political or press spheres, from both right and left, set up shop as censors and prosecutors. Yet one could still get away with a few sensible observations, even sarcastic remarks, concerning the version of the history of the war that the victors were at the time trying to impose. Today the victors have achieved their aim. In regard to one of its most suspect parts, that dealing with "crimes against Humanity" (read: crimes against Jews), the Nuremberg Tribunal's judgement can today no longer be contested. There, the gag is in place, well in place. On the subject of the lot of Europe's Jews during the war and on the problem of the Nazi gas chambers, our judges have become intractable. Words like those used by Paraz in writing about the matter would nowadays earn him fines, imprisonment, and a plethora of other tribulations.
Today, Paraz would probably have the right to repeat his considerations on Sartre, on the Resistance and "Resistancialism", on Jean Moulin's secret meeting at Caluire, and even on the concentration camp Kapos. But on the gas chambers, niet: the ukase of 13 July 1990 is there; the leagues of virtue keep a watchful eye on revisionists: they intervene with bombs, vitriol, arson attacks, or... with this sordid law that they have got passed.
With a flair somewhat like Céline's, Paraz had, as early as 1950, detected in Jean Paul Sartre the kind of counterfeit which, as with Gide and Malraux, was being foisted on young readers of the time as literature. Fake résistant, real back-stabber, "the Tapeworm" or "the Hothead" others, in 1980, were to call him more unanimously "the King of the Idiots" would remain to the end of his life a calamitous, philosophy-besotted professor; naïve, informing on those who displeased him, toadying to the high and mighty of the day to a point which the latter actually found embarrassing (e.g. the reception given to his Réflexions sur la question juive), ever careful to see how the land lay and to run only those risks which could have no real consequences on his life, personal freedom, or wallet, Sartre has since become unreadable, except perhaps for a novel and a few short stories in which I, for my part, will grant him some real ability.
As concerns the Resistance or "Resistancialism", in these times where old résistants, male and female, constantly tour the schools of the land to spout tales of their exploits to a captive young audience, I would heartily recommend that some "choice pieces of Albert Paraz" dealing with the period in question be submitted to the same quarry, particularly these two short extracts which, as the reader will see, illustrate one and the same idea:
To stab a sentry and have hostages get shot for it, that, for me, beats all (p. 37),
Killing from behind, thus causing hostages to be shot: you don't need to be a genius to have children see [...] that that's bad (p. 39).
As for the Kapos of the Häftlingsführung, that is, the body of overseers recruited from amongst the internees (often Communists or Jews), Paraz and Rassinier saw so clearly, and time, here, has done its job so well that their comments would probably not seem questionable today, even to a judge (e.g. the Laurent Wetzel-Marcel Paul case).
But let us return to the thorniest question: that of the execution gas chambers in certain German concentration camps, for it is indeed the central point of both the book and its preface.
As Céline (another member of the myth-busters' gang) put it, let us approach the subject "with infinite kid gloves".
And, to begin, let us allow our préfacier another word:
After the dungeons, Torquemada, the Jesuits and the Freemasons, the iron mask, there is another story which must absolutely not be touched on: that of the gas chambers. The entire Earth's surface will stay red-hot from this for centuries. I just missed getting murdered three times, yesterday, simply for showing Rassinier's text to some neighbours, all in the space of about a hundred yards' walk from my house.
On 16 September 1989, "about a hundred yards from my house", I myself just missed getting murdered by three Jewish thugs; the police report, for its part, made mention of "young Jewish activists from Paris". Like a Palestinian, I underwent that day a treatment which aims to dispatch the victim by means of kicks to the head. A young man appeared on the scene, putting the assailants to flight, and the next day, upon learning my name, confessed to the police that he regretted having saved my life.
I relate this anecdote only because it resembles closely enough that told by Paraz. I could just as well recall here the nine other assaults which I had to suffer from 1978 to 1993, and several dozen attacks carried out against other revisionists who have, on occasion, been maimed or killed. As Serge or Beate Klarsfeld would put it, all that is only "natural" or "normal", since one should always take care not to make certain people angry, shouldn't one?
Out of caution, I shall avoid commenting on other passages of the preface which deal with the subject and, leaving all of that to one side, refer the reader to the 3 December 1998 issue of Le Monde. One Gérard Wacjman, "writer and psychoanalyst", had an article on page 15 in which the expression "gas chambers" appeared no fewer than nine times. Here we are indeed far from the style of Paraz, his alacrity and natural freshness, his home-grown finesse ; with this Wacjman, the reasoning is somewhat obscure and the style convoluted, but one can tell what he is getting at easily enough.
In this article, mysteriously entitled « "Saint Paul" Godard contre "Moïse" Lanzmann ? » our writer and psychoanalyst takes the film-maker Jean Luc Godard to task, contrasting him with Claude Lanzmann, producer-director of the film Shoah. The underlying debate seems to me to have been inspired by the challenge which I formulated in 1992: "Show me or draw me a Nazi gas chamber!" J. L. Godard finds himself accused by G. Wacjman of having recently declared:
I think that, if I went to work on it with a good investigative journalist, I would find photographs of the gas chambers in twenty years' time or so.
To which G. Wacjman replies, clearly for once:
Beneath this smooth and guileless exterior there lies a poisonous idea. I don't like it. To have out with it, it worries me. It's not a right thing to say. Obviously I am not dealing with the question of whether or not images of the gas chambers exist. I know nothing about that.
And, painstakingly, the writer-psychoanalyst henceforth tries to have us understand that it is wrong to want to prove the gas chambers' existence. Who needs a picture? Fifty years on nothing has been found, not even "a little bit of something": a fine business! No matter! Besides, if any evidence at all turned up, what would that prove?
The gas chambers existed. I know it. Yet, I have never seen them. I have not seen them work. I have seen remains, I have seen the places, I have seen pictures of the open crematoria, I have seen reconstitutions of the gas chambers, but the men, the children, the women running naked in the corridors, pushed into the showers, dying of asphyxiation as they tried to climb on top of each other, I have never seen them. Yet, I know that that took place. I know it just as everyone knows it apart from those who do not wish to know it as we know that there are billions of galaxies in an infinite universe, without ever having seen them. I know that the gas chambers took place [sic] because there are witnesses, evidence too. No pictures but an infinite accumulation of words, private or public, of the victims or of the henchmen.
The readable part of the article ends with the pronouncement of an atrocious suspicion:
If after twenty years, twenty centuries of research, it is concluded that there exists no image of that which must necessarily have an image, will that not suffice to justify, according to reason, the suspicion that, after all, it may not have existed?
After this heartrending query, G. Wacjman's piece becomes incomprehensible.
Paraz, so clear-sighted, so pessimistic, so convinced that we would be in "for centuries" of this "story" of the gas chambers and its consequences, would he have imagined that, forty-eight years on from the day in June 1950 when he finished his preface, the scathing attack launched by Rassinier would still be as scathing as ever?
Like many pamphleteers, Paraz, deep down inside, believed in Man. He advocated peace, even pacifism, European reconciliation, resistance to all brands of propaganda, the anti-Kraut as well as the anti-Soviet. He believed in the possibility of honesty and in the possibility of the independence of the historian, to the point of writing that "a group of historians must be brought together immediately" to get to the bottom of it all: the actual facts and the true numbers: an impartial group without Germans, without Jews and made up, for instance, of Indians, Chinese, Blacks, Japanese (p. 26).
Up to his very last days Paraz, deathly ill but without a thought for himself, could be seen going to the aid of the reprobates of his time: the anarchist or libertarian Louis Lecoin, the socialist Paul Rassinier, the Fascist (?) Maurice Bardèche and the unclassifiable Louis Ferdinand Céline.
All throughout this preface, it is a French heart that I myself hear beating. By his generosity, his gallantry, his style, but also by a certain form of unawareness, Paraz the pacifist resembles, like a comrade in arms, the knight in armour Louis Ferdinand who, as we know, set off so jauntily on his voyage to the end of the night.
French text as foreword (avant-propos) to the reprint of Paraz' Preface by Akribeia in 1999.
First displayed on aaargh: 17 April 2001.
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